Getting Funky with a Brett Saison

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted here so I’ll start with an update of the past few months.  It’s been busy and we’ve only been able to brew 3 beers so far this year, we’ve really got to step it up.  We entered a couple homebrew competitions and our Synesthesia Pêche took 2nd for its category in one of them.  Our 2nd year Centennial hops are coming in really nicely, hopefully we’ll get some cones this year.  In a couple of weeks we’ll be serving a beer we brewed with Burnt Hickory Brewery (Chocolate Coffee Porter with Raspberries) at their 3rd Anniversary Party, if you’re in the Atlanta area come on out and join us.

Brew Dog Boo rocking her medal for Synesthesia Pêche

Brew Dog Boo rocking her medal for Synesthesia Pêche

Now that we’re all caught up let’s get on with our latest brew, Synesthesia American.  If you’ve followed us for a while you know we brew a lot of saisons, we’ve had very good results with them and gosh darn it, we like them.  With Synesthesia American we took our standard Synesthesia Saison recipe and switched out the yeast to WLP670, an American Farmhouse strain with Brett.  This one will take 4-6 months (from what I’ve read) to reach its potential and should produce a moderate funkiness.  I wanted to test this recipe brewing the beer exactly as we have in the past and only changing the yeast.  Our base recipe had a whirlpool hop addition and we kept it in there although it may not do much for the finished beer due to the extended aging.  We recently opened a bottle of our first batch that was 14 months old and it aged extremely well.

This will get fermented up to 85°F for a couple of weeks then we’ll move it off the trub and into an upstairs closet for 3-4 months.  After that we’ll bottle-condition, I look forward to seeing how this one changes over time.  I’ve never been the most patient brewer but have to say that seeing positive results on past beers make it a bit easier to wait things out, it also helps to have a few in the pipeline to quench your thirst while you wait.

Action Shot! Synesthesia American boiling away

Action Shot! Synesthesia American boiling away

UPDATES AND TASTING NOTES

05/06/15 | Transferred to secondary, purged with CO2.

06/10/15 | Just short of 2 months since brew day.  Gravity at 1.004.  Flavor is a fruity saison with (maybe?) a very light funkiness.

06/27/15 | Bottled.  Gravity was still at 1.004.  Huge pellicle on top, no sign of pellicle on 06/10.  Starting to develop some of that Brett funk.

Pellicle on a Brett Saison

Pellicle on a Brett Saison

TASTING NOTES

09/07/15 | At just over 4 months old this beer really started to hit its stride.  Good amount of funk and very fruity with flavors of pineapple and mango.  It recently took 2nd for the Belgian Specialty Ale category at the New South Brew Off.

I’ve seen a lot lately about the love for green bottles for funky beers to allow some lightstruck character.  I bottled some of this in brown bottles and some in green bottles to compare the two.  Early tasting shows a distinct difference with the green bottles being noted as having an herbal quality.  I took one 750ml bottle of brown and one of green and placed them on a shelf that gets only indirect light, I’m going to leave them there for 6 months then try each one side-by-side to note the character differences.

Winner!  Synesthesia American took Silver for category at the 2015 New South Brew Off

Winner! Synesthesia American took Silver for category at the 2015 New South Brew Off

2014 Brew Year in Review

It’s 2015, isn’t that crazy?  Twenty-Fifteen. It sounds so… futuristic.  A friend shared an article with me comparing how close certain dates were to each other, like 1980 being closer to FDR, Churchill, and Hitler fighting each other than it is to today.  Cray-zee. Well we’re looking forward to what the future holds for us here at MHB as we look back on the awesomeness of 2014.

2014 Brew Year in Review

  • We brewed 12, 5-gallon batches of beer
  • We brewed 3, 1-gallon experimental batches of beer
  • We brewed 2, 5 gallon batches of mead
  • We brewed 2, 5-gallon batches of hard lemonade (Sweet, sweet lemonade)
  • All in we brewed 83 gallons of alcoholic beverages in 2014 (Maybe we should shoot for 100 this year)
  • We failed miserably at growing Centennial hops, not a single cone
  • We completed OU’s 400 level chemistry course, The Chemistry of Beer
  • We were invited to brew and serve one of our beers at a local brewery (Burnt Hickory Brewery) for their anniversary party
  • We entered 3 of our beers across 4 BJCP sanctioned contests
  • We won 2 awards for our beers: A 3rd place finish for Synesthesia Saison and recently a 1st place (we think, it’s a long story) for It’s The Great Pumpkin, Timmy D!
  • I almost forgot, our label for Atlantarctica was selected as a finalist for AHA’s Label Contest

A few stats about our website in 2014

Looks like we’ve got our work cut out for us in 2015 if we want to top our 2014 accomplishments.  I think we can do it.  Our main/only goal in 2015 is to brew better beer.  We improved our knowledge and process a lot in 2014 and we’ll continue to do that in 2015.  There are a few pieces of equipment we’d like to add our upgrade, since Santa punked me out on the Sabco.  I’ll remember that, Santa.

I hope everyone had a great 2014 and that 2015 is even better.  We’re definitely looking forward to what the year in beer holds for us.

Synesthesia Pêche – Brew in Review

We brewed Synesthesia Pêche at the end of October and recently were able to enjoy the (peachy) fruits of our labor.  This was our first successful fruited beer, with Kiwi Kaleidoscope being our first attempt as well as an education on how protease enzymes work.  Live and brew and learn… then brew it again.

Synesthesia Pêeche

Synesthesia Pêeche

For Synesthesia Pêche we used freeze-dried peaches.  I chose freeze-dried after watching The Mind of a Chef and seeing them recommended to get the most true fruit flavor in cooking, I figured that would apply to brewing as well.  I guess in order to get a good comparison I would have to do this again with another form of peaches but I can say that I’m please with the results from the freeze-dried.  The aroma of peach comes out on the pour, however it fades a lot after the initial burst.  However the peach flavor is big and juicy in the beer, perfectly balanced with the beer being mostly dry with enough sweetness to make the peach flavor pop.  Most of those that tried it said the flavor was just right, with one of our friends saying it was a bit too intense.  That friend is crazy and we all know it.

Normally I don’t pay a lot of attention to the proper seasons for beer but I have to say that drinking this reminded me of late Spring to early Summer and it would be perfect then, perhaps paired with an assortment of cheeses.  Maybe I’ll try to save some until then.

Some sexy bottles of Synesthesia Pêche

Some sexy bottles of Synesthesia Pêche

Brewing Synesthesia Pêche

Synesthesia Pêche is our first venture into fruited beers, OK… it’s actually our second but we prefer to forget the abomination that was Kiwi Kaleidoscope.  We’ve brewed a couple batches of Synesthesia Saison with good, consistent results so it was a perfect choice to try a fruit addition.  Since we’re in Georgia it seemed that peaches were the logical choice so Synesthesia Pêche was born.

Saison + Peaches = Yes.

Saison + Peaches = Yes

I did some research on the various methods of adding fruit and after careful consideration decided to ignore them.  While watching Mind of a Chef on Netflix I saw an episode where they played around with some freeze-dried foods and the chef mentioned that this method (with fruit) produced the most true fruit flavor in his dishes.  A bit more Googling showed a couple of people have tried this in brewing but it isn’t a widely used method, it seems a few more people tried it with mead than with beer.  As a side note, I saw several people using the term dehydrated and freeze-dried interchangeably and they are very different preservation methods.  Dehydrated/dried fruit has had most of the moisture removed (usually with a combination of heat and air) where freeze drying works by freezing the product then using pressure to remove the moisture.  With either method there may be preservatives used, so make sure what you get is additive free.  After emailing them to confirm they used only peaches I ordered this can from Honeyville Farms on Amazon.

Freeze dried peaches.  I'm gonna drown them in beer. RIPeaches.

Freeze dried peaches. I’m gonna drown them in beer. RIPeaches.

Most of the others I could find that used freeze-dried fruit in their brew made a slurry in a blender before adding it to their beer/mead.  My fruit came in small dices and I wanted to add it straight to the beer so I got as much of the flavor as possible without diluting the beer with more liquid.  However I wasn’t sure if this posed an infection risk so I dropped an email to Michael Tonsmeire (The Mad Fermentationist and author of American Sour Beers) and he felt that although the fruit wouldn’t be sterile the environment in the beer likely would not allow it to grow.  Good deal, full steam ahead.

Racking the saison onto the peaches

Racking the saison onto the peaches

I brewed the saison as normal and allowed it to complete fermentation which finished at 1.006.  I used 12 oz of freeze dried peaches in a 5 gallon batch.  My Google-fu suggest that freeze dried fruit is 8-9x lighter than fresh so I’m estimating this is equivalent to 6.5’ish pounds of fruit.  I cleaned and sanitized a carboy and added the fruit then purged it with CO2 before racking the beer onto the fruit.  After that I placed it in the fermentation chamber at 65°F and let it work its magic.  Saturday will be two weeks and I sample and see if this one is ready to keg.  I’ll post an update with results once the beer is done.  I think I may even have a bottle of the regular saison around to do some comparison.

You may notice the airlock on my carboy looks a bit different, I’m trying out a new waterless, sanitary airlock called Sterilock.  It’s not available for purchase in the US just yet but should be headed this way soon.  This is my first brew with it but I’ll post a review of that as well as the plastic Big Mouth Bubbler in the near future.

Peaches releasing all their love into my beer.

Peaches releasing all their love into my beer.

So. Much. Win.

Synesthesia Saison takes bronze at the 2014 Peach State Brew Off!

Synesthesia Saison takes bronze at the 2014 Peach State Brew Off!

This post is going to be quick and dirty and if you follow Mostly Harmless on any social media sites then there’s a good chance you’ve already seen this, well here it is again.  So there.  We’re proud and dammit were going to brag for a bit.

Yesterday Synesthesia Saison took 3rd place for its category at the Peach State Brew Off!

This is our first medal and it’s pretty exciting.  Of course I think it should have taken first, but we’ll take 3rd… for now.   One of my friends brewed the beer that took 1st so I’m trying to work out a little swap with him so I can see what the competition is up to.  All in all we had a lot of fun at the brew off and it sure didn’t hurt that we won a medal.

Corking and caging our first Belgian brew

We weren’t sure we’d pull through at times but both Brian and I managed to survive the 2 massive blizzards that hit Atlanta in as many weeks.  Brian sat in is fancy-pants condo and, literally and figuratively, looked down on the frozen people of Atlanta.  I just stayed in the house and occasionally poked my head out to see if the roads had thawed.  In the middle of the storm I made tuna salad without realizing I was out of relish, I didn’t even have any pickles I could chop up.  It was terrible.  Fortunately I had plenty of milk and bread and eggs, because after watching the news apparently these are the items every house needs to survive the apocalypse.  My local grocery store was also sold out of toilet paper, I don’t even want to know what the hell my neighbors were doing during the storms.  Fortunately by Saturday we’d thawed out and were able to get back to work in the brewhouse.  This weekend we bottled our Synesthesia Saison and did “research” on White IPA’s and Witbiers for a future brewday.

Synesthesia Saison

Synesthesia Saison

Brian and I typically work together on our brews.  We bounce ideas off each other, talk about malt and hop bills, beer body, etc.  However this saison was my pet project.  I mentioned in another post that I really put a lot into the recipe and process for this beer.  Brian stepped aside on the planning of this one then jumped in on brew day to make it happen.  I wanted this to be as Belgian as possible, including Belgian beer bottles with corks and cages, so we got a Portuguese floor corker, some Belgian bottles (holy crap these things can be expensive), corks, and cages and we were ready to make magic.  Corking and caging was much easier than I thought it would be based on the videos and articles I found online about the process.  Perhaps in a future post I’ll go more in depth with the process I used… once I make sure I don’t end up with a bunch of corks and cages flying around the house.  In the pic below the base of my corker may look odd, I used a Pyrex dish inverted on the base as a spacer to help the shorter 375ml bottles fit the corker, worked like a charm.

Floor corking the night away.

Floor corking the night away.

I was pretty happy with the way the bottling and labels on this brew turned out.  I’ve got high hopes for this beer, I guess I’ll see in a couple weeks if it comes through for me.  I hope it does as I’ve blindly entered it into an upcoming homebrew competition.  It’s gonna be a winner, I can feel it.

Next up we’ll be using all that knowledge we gained from our research on white IPA’s and witbiers to brew something along those lines.  This one is Brian’s child though, so I’ll stay out of the way until brew day.  I’m a bit scared as Brian is absolutely nuts when it comes to designing beer recipes, so there’s no telling what we’ll end up with.   One of his ideas yesterday was Raison de Raisin Saison.  I mocked him for the idea, as I do with all of his ideas whether or not they are good, but now I want to brew a raisin saison.  Looks like it’s time to get back on the research.

Brewing Belgians – Saison brew day

I really like saisons.  I say I’m passionate about them but others have used the word obsessed… whatever.

Several months ago I decided I wanted to brew a saison but rather than jumping into it and brewing away all willy nilly, I researched saisons like crazy.  I drank as many as I could find and made a spreadsheet with notes on color, carbonation, aroma, flavors.  Then I took that sheet and I wrote to the brewers of my favorites and told them what I liked about their beers and asked them for tips on brewing mine.  As a side note, there are certain breweries that are very friendly and helpful to homebrewers, New Holland Monkey King is one of my favorite saisons and they not only replied to my email but we chatted a bit (via email) to help me fine tune my process.  I talked to local commercial brewers and asked for their advice to achieve what I wanted in my beer and I emailed White Labs to ask for tips on the way to best get what I wanted out of the yeast I chose to use (WLP566) and they were glad to share some advice with me.  See?  Passionate.

I forgot to get pictures of the process prior to fermentation so instead here is a picture of a Tactical Goat.

I forgot to get pictures of the process prior to fermentation so instead here is a picture of a Tactical Goat.

After a ton of research I finally found what I wanted to brew and this weekend we brewed it up.  I’ve noticed that my favorite saisons seem to be more fruit forward with phenolics in the background, rather than the other way around.  It turns out I’m also a fan of wheated saisons, many of my favorites have a touch of wheat in them.  My final recipe included Pilsen malt, some white wheat and Belgian candi syrup with Hallertau Hersbrucker, Saaz and my personal favorite hops, Mosaic.  We’ve dubbed this one Synesthesia Saison and we were going to use the tagline Taste the Rainbow, but I think that’s being used already.

We mashed the grains at 148° for 75 minutes then did a double batch sparge at 168°, this one had a 2 hour boil to carmelize the sugars a touch for both color and flavor.  Hops were added at first wort, 60 minutes and flameout, the Belgian candi syrup was also added at flameout.  We put 5 1/2 gallons in the carboy and pitched our yeast starter then capped it up and into the fermentation chamber with it.  Within 12 hours this thing was spinning like crazy.  A nice, fast, aggressive fermentation.  I’m really excited to see how this one turns out.

On a geekier note, after seeing a post on a homebrew forum where someone else did this I added a wireless IP video camera (I got a Tenvis JPT3815W) to the fermentation chamber so I can watch it from the comfort of my easy chair.  It’s pretty awesome.  Right now I can only view it from my network, since my router is being a pain about letting me have access to my ports, but I plan to get this online where anyone can see it.

Fermentation Creeper Cam

Fermentation Creeper Cam

In case you’re a saison fan as well, here are my favorites.

Tim D’s Top 5 Saisons
1) New Holland Monkey King
2) Stillwater Cellar Door
3) Goose Island Sofie (2012)
4) Stillwater Stateside Saison
5) Dupont Saison Cuvee Dry Hopping.